Probably the number 1 reason I hear people give for not practicing any sitting meditation is, “My thought just go everywhere…. I can’t calm down.” Sound familiar? Honestly, I too still get a ‘chatterbox’ mind, insistent on bringing up all kinds of sub-conscious residue from thoughts past. Often times I find another avenue of meditation, like walking or yoga asanas, but that doesn’t really solve the original issue, it just kind of disguises it. The ability to quiet your mind at almost any time is a truly empowering ability to have, and will undoubtedly serve you in all aspects of your life.
Clearing the Breath, Clearing the Mind
Clearing Breath is a great place to start, and can be started several minutes before you actually begin sitting. This is a great way to get some oxygen and equalize your nervous tensions, inviting a meditative mindset to take you over. I like starting with a few rounds of Clearing Breath, then slowly letting it ebb to its natural rhythm, where I’m not actively breathing, just becoming aware and letting it happen.
Further, setting an intention for your meditation can be a great way to focus your energies. It helps to also recognize that you would like to have a clear mind for the next 5, 10, 15 minutes, and any thoughts that may arise are simply not important enough that they cannot be dealt with at the end of your meditation.
I’ll say that again to emphasize: DURING MEDITATION, ALMOST NO THOUGHTS OR FEELINGS ARE SO IMPORTANT THAT THEY CANNOT WAIT UNTIL AFTER YOUR MEDITATION IS OVER.
Does this make sense? Often times, we’re never really thinking of any big, pressing issues. It’s simply, “What shall I cook for dinner?…. Is there a new Office episode tonight?… I wonder if I still have another frozen pizza or did I already eat that?…. I wonder how Jeff is, I haven’t talked to him in a while….”
Wow. Fascinating stuff, but is it really so pressing it can’t be put aside for 10 minutes, and then picked back up when you’re done? I highly doubt it; unless you forgot to DVR The Office and it’s coming on in 3 minutes, then you should probably take care of that!
But, at the end of the day, how many of those thoughts you have are really just place holders for something more? I’d be willing to bet only a small FRACTION of your daily thoughts actually has any impact on inspiring you, calming and clearing you, and making your feel better and happier. It’s likely all that mental chatter is getting in the way of something more productive and benefiting…….(like meditation!)
So what about the bigger issues we face every day? How do we rectify ‘calming the mind’ with family and relationship complications, major job stressors and not to mention the state of the world as a whole?
Again, it will do you a great service to clarify your intentions for meditation. Your meditation should actually help you to accept and work through some of these issues, and you should remind yourself that becoming more calm and centered will only make you better suited to face these tough issues, and may even alleviate any negative feelings associated with them altogether.
Think of this: How much can you help and serve other people if your own thoughts and feelings are a chaotic mess completely outside your own control? Unfortunately, not many. And, unfortunately, trying to serve others in this state of affairs more often than not doesn’t serve the ends you intend, and can actually drag others down with you.
Why do you meditate? What are you hoping to get out of the process?
Another technique I use is what I call ‘pre-flight’ meditation, or ‘pre-meditation’. I allot myself 10 minutes where I will do nothing but sit and let my thoughts float and bubble however they please before I even BEGIN my meditation.
This is a powerful way of letting rampant energies burn off, and seeing the unfiltered chaos of our mind. This is also the perfect time to come into rhythm with your breathing, and prepare your posture, do any light stretching to release physical tensions(in fact, some nights I do only stretching for this phase). This has a two-fold effect of calming your mind before meditation even begins, and subconsciously setting your intention for what you desire from your meditation. This one method alone, allotting time to let my mind go BEFORE I even begin meditation, has been a huge factor in my own practice, and I was shocked I hadn’t began doing this sooner; it just MADE SENSE.
The great part about this as well is it doesn’t necessarily need to be done in the same area we choose to sit and meditate to be of benefit; you can begin ‘pre-meditation’ in the car on the way home, or on the exercise bike through the last few laps, any place when you have time to yourself, and can remember to let the mind free for a short period.
Speaking of an exercise bike, any form of physical exertion is a fantastic ways to burn off boisterous energies, allowing you to settle into a sense of calm. Think about the very thing you want to do after any intensive exercise; likely, just sit there thinking of nothing, and taking deep nourishing breaths. Now I don’t know about you, but this sounds exactly like meditation to me!
Try these out, and I PROMISE you will see a difference, the FIRST time your try it. Try to consciously clarify your intention, out loud if you can. After your intention is set, try some pre-flight meditation, and ‘let the kids out to play’ for a bit. When your thoughts begin to take on longer stings of sustained ideas, the calming is happening. It is no longer all over the place, and was able to ‘set anchor’ somewhere; this is good. You can begin anytime to enjoy your sitting meditation. Allow yourself to release this thought, and then come back to it if you deem it important. If anything comes up, gently set it aside for later.
Deep breaths, back straight, calm. Be Here Now.